tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS June 12, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, june 12: a mass shooting at an orlando, florida, nightclub-- the worst incident of gun violence in american history. >> although it's still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. next on this edition of pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires.
sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios at lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thank you for joining us. president obama describes it as an act of terror and an act of hate. in the early hours after midnight this morning, a lone gunman inside an orlando, florida, nightclub began opening fire at the club's predominantly gay clientele. the shooter killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 50 others before orlando police stormed the club and killed him. this is, quite simply, the most
lethal mass shooting in american history, worse than the number of innocents killed at the elementary school in newtown, the movie theater in aurora, colorado, the campus of virginia tech, and also the holiday party in san bernardino, california, last december. whether this tragedy was a purposeful hate crime, politically-motivated terrorism, or merely an act of senseless violence is under the investigation led by the f.b.i. the newshour's megan thompson begins our coverage >> reporter: the shooting began around 2:00 a.m. inside the pulse nightclub, near closing time, and more than 300 patrons were about to call it a night. a lone gunman was already inside, armed with an ar-15 style semi-automatic rifle and a handgun, he had purchased legally in the past few days. the gunman first engaged in gunfire with an off-duty police officer working security at the club. then, the gunman went back inside, began his killing spree, and turned survivors into hostages.
three hours later, at 5:00 a.m., an orlando police swat team stormed the club and shot and killed the gunman, but not before the gunman killed at least 50 people. it is not known at what point during the ordeal the victims were killed, whether before or after the swat team intervened. orlando mayor buddy dyer said of the scene: "there's blood everywhere." witnesses to the massacre were in shock. one survivor said at first he thought the gunfire was part of the club's music. >> you'd turn around the person next to you is screaming, there's blood splattering, i didn't know if it was mine or somebody else's, but when i got out i realized it wasn't mine, it was somebody else's. the person i was with was shot in the back, i had to take my bandana off and tie it and put it in the bullet hole in his back so he wasn't bleeding. >> we have still friends in there. we actually have two friends in there. one has a wound on his leg and then the other one in the arm. >> reporter: the mother of one man trapped inside the club spoke with her son during the shooting.
what did he tell you exactly? >> that the shooter has them in the women's bathroom hostage, and he's going to die. >> reporter: the police chief says the swat team rescued at least 30 potential victims who had been held hostage. the orlando regional medical center treated most of the 53 people authorities say were wounded or injured. hundreds of donors lined up to answer an urgent appeal for blood to help doctors treat the dozens of wounded. >> we have spent the morning on a number of victims. we continue to operate on them. we have found many of them are critically ill as a result of their injuries. the f.b.i. also confirmed that omar mateen lived in fort pierce, florida, about 90 miles southeast of orlando. the f.b.i. also confirmed that it investigated mateen twice in the last two years, in it investigated mateen twice in the past few years, in 2013 for making inflammatory comments to
co-workers, and in 2014, for alleged ties to a suicide bomber. both times, mateen was cleared. the f.b.i. confirmed mateen made a 9-1-1 call right before the shooting and talked about the islamic state group, or isis. >> there were 911 calls in which there was conversation between the subject and lawmght -- law enforcement representatives, 911 dispatchers. i have not listened to them, but it's my understanding it was general to the isis state. >> reporter: today, the isis news agency claimed responsibility for the attack, describing mateen as an islamic state fighter, but this claim has not been confirmed. police searched the van parked by the shooter outside the club. they did not find any explosive devices or booby traps inside the club. as part of the investigation, orlando police surrounded and searched the home of mateen's parents in fort pierce. nbc news reported that when it reached mateen's father on the phone this morning, mir seddique, said, "we are in shock like the whole country" and "we
are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident." according to nbc, the father also said the shooting had nothing to with religion, but his son had been angered when he recently saw two men kissing. orlando police chief mina urged anyone who was in the pulse nightclub last night at any time to call the authorities. >> it's definitely a tragedy not only for the city but for our entire nation. we believe this is a tragedy that could happen anywhere in the united states of america. and what we need to do is continue to be vigilant and call if you see something, say something. call anyone. call the f.b.i. if you see something out of place, or you see someone that's acting strange, strange behavior. >> reporter: at the white house this afternoon, president obama spoke about the orlando massacre, but did not take any questions. here is part of his statement. >> this is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends-- our fellow americans--
who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. the shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. the place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub-- it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. so this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any american-- regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation-- is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. and no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us americans. today marks the most deadly shooting in american history.
the shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. this massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. and we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. and to actively do nothing is a decision as well. in the coming hours and days, we'll learn about the victims of this tragedy. their names. their faces. who they were. the joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families, that god give them the strength to bear the unbearable. and that he give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to
change. we need to demonstrate that we are defined more-- as a country -- by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us. >> sreenivasan: for further perspective and the latest developments on the mass shooting at the orlando nightclub, i am joined by skype by the managing editor of "the orlando sentinel," john cutter. john, i know it's a busy day in your newsroom, but now orlando joins a horrible list, newtown, connecticut, aurora, colorado, san bernardino. orlando is now on that list for a very bad reason. >> i know, and that's actually something that we talked about very early today. orlando is often the kind of place that gets mentioned as a potential target because we are such a vacation destination, so you never want it to happen certainly. you never expect it to happen. but i know law enforcement felt it was prepared and, you know, now we join that list. >> sreenivasan: tell us a little bit about the orlando community. it has a history of being inclusive. >> it does. one of the things that we often
like to say to people when they come here, say, for a job interview is that this is a very inclusive community. it's much more diverse than some other parts of florida. there is a large, thriving and loving gay community, and this incident happened during a latin night at the club, and obviously this is a very diverse area. there's a large group of spanish-speaking residents, both americans and people who have moved here, so it sort of hits right at the heart of some of our most important people. >> sreenivasan: reporters have been out covering this all day. what sticks out to you? i mean, i've seen images of people lining up at the blood bank to donate, for example. >> you know, a couple of things stick out. one is as i realize how much this touches everyone as soon as i arrived in the newsroom very early this morning, one of our folks was close to tears because she had not yet heard from a friend. we had a lot of that kind of thing happening in our newsroom and obviously across the community.
i don't think we'll all have to go very far before we find someone who was either in the club or sadly a victim. but the response to the call for blood was amazing. i mean, they actually had to start turning people away. police even talked about how people were bringing water and food down to authorities and other members of the public who were waiting for news there. that's an inspiring thing to see on an awful day like this. >> sreenivasan: what about the relationship between the islamic community in central florida and the general population? >> it struck me, it was very important that the imam here was very early at a press conference talking about inclusiveness and outreach. they've been very active with the community. there are interfaith groups that have had regular meetings, worried about islamophobia and have tried the make connections between the groups for just a circumstance like this, so they could be ready to respond and remind people that this is about
apparently one man and not about a community. >> sreenivasan: what do we know about the place where he came from? the suburb outside of orlando? >> it's about an hour and a half from here. it's off of a couple of our major roads. people have been here and driven down the florida turnpike, it's right around there, fort pierce, that area. like a lot of florida, it has many people from other places, people who move here for lots of reasons. and why this person ended up going from apparently an hour and a half down and coming to orlando to commit this act is something that the authorities don't yet know. >> sreenivasan: already, john cutter, managing editor of the orlando "the orlando sentinel," thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: president obama noted that today's mass shooting is especially painful for gay and lesbian americans as a club where they socialized in solidarity was the target. to discuss what the orlando mass shooting means for the l.g.b.t. community, i am joined by carlos smith, from "equality florida,"
a group that fights for l.g.b.t. rights. tell us a bit about the commune they was affected today. >> sure. well, our entire community is devastated, and equality florida sends its thoughts and prayers to all of those who were affected by this tragedy. this tragedy happened at a popular nightclub, pulse orlando, a gay nightclub. it happened during l.g.b.t.q. pride month. it happened at a time when the club was at maximum capacity. so it's clear that the shooter had every intent of inflicting the maximum amount of violence and damage. and i think what's really important to understand is that the l.g.b.t.q. community has gone to gay nightclubs like pulse orlando and places around the country for decades, since the days of stonewall, as a place where people can be safe, as a place where people can with who they are and have a sense of
community. so we're devastated to see this type of violence, but i think it's also important that people understand that the central florida l.g.b.t.q. community is standing in solidarity also with the muslim and islamic community. both of our communities have been targets of violence, of hate and of discrimination. >> sreenivasan: is there a history of disproportionate discrimination or just any discrimination against the l.g.b.t. community in florida, in central florida? >> well, what we've seen unfortunately in the last couple of years is there has been a rash of violence, particularly against transgender women of color. there was a hate crime murder incident that happened actually recently in florida that was devastating to the community that targeted a transgender black woman. and what we're seeing now is that even in the year 2016, hate
and bigotry still exists. and we're doing what we can in our communities, at the local level, at the state level, at the national level, to eradicate all forms of hate and discrimination and to make sure that we fight against all phobias, not just homophobia, not just transphobia, but also against islamophobia. >> sreenivasan: what happens in healing process when it affects so many people? besides the 50 dead and another 50 injured, all of those individuals have a ripple effect throughout the much larger community? >> i think what happens is we come together and we grieve together as americans. and it's not just about the l.g.b.t.q. community. it's also about the latino community. this happened at a nightclub on latino night, and it was a night where there were many
l.g.b.t.q., latinos and allies who were there who are devastated. and i think it now is a time to have conversations with one another about inclusivety, about pushing back on some of the rhetoric that we're hearing around the world. >> sreenivasan: carlos, did you know any of the people that were affected? >> i don't know if i do. i woke up this morning to this nightmare, and i immediately checked in with all of my closest friends and family and reached out to the people that i thought to reach out to, and everyone that i reached out to immediately was safe. the l.g.b.t.q. community in orlando is very tight. we're very strong. we're a very close community. and my thoughts and prayers are with those who know people who were impacted by this tragedy. i can't even imagine that i was at the l.g.b.t.q. center just a few moments ago before we started this interview and ran into friends who do know people
who died. i'm just consoling them the best that i know how, and we're going to get through this together as a community because we're strong. >> sreenivasan: all right. carlos smith from equality florida, thanks for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> sreenivasan: at this time, there are more questions than answers about the horrible mass shooting at the orlando nightclub. joining me from washington to discuss the broader implications of today's tragedy is stephen biddle of the council on foreign relations. so stephen, we're hearing reports from different news agencies that the individual responsible for this claimed allegiance the isis on a 911 call. we're hearing that isis news agency, if you can call it that, is taking responsibility. putting all this into perspective, how often do these attacks happen?
>> terrorist attacks are quite common worldwide. terrorist attacks against americans and especially in the united states are very uncommon. mass shootings regrettably are quite common. terrorist attacks by islamists against americans are quite uncommon. in fact, since 2001, only about 100 americans have been killed by international terrorists. in statistical terms it's actually more likely than an american will be killed in a lightning strike than an international terrorist. even in 2001, worst year in american history for deaths of american to international terrorism, as horrible as the world trade center and pentagon attacks were, more americans were killed by pep tick ulcers in that year than by international terrorists. in terms of the objective magnitude of threat to american lives and property posed by international terrorism, it has not been large. >> sreenivasan: but after
september 11th america does not launch a war on pep tick ulcers from trying to prevent that from happening again. we create the global war on terror that is continuing, but in practical terms, even if these are lone wolf attacks, how do we prevent against something like this happening again? >> the lone wolf attacks in particular are really devilishly difficult problems to deal with. you're dealing by definition with tiny numbers of individuals. we could respond even more forcefully to the terrorism threat in the united states than we have, and it's worth noting that we've spent $1 trillion in counter-terrorism since 2001. it's not like the united states has done nothing. you can always do more, the problem is there are trade-offs associated with doing more that can sometimes make the response worse than the problem that it's trying to solve. so take, for example, the problem of lone wolves in the united states responding to a
generic call of the islamic state to act against americans. there are tiny minority of muslims in the united states engaged in terrorist activity. if we engage in more surveillance activities to reduce this tiny number into a tinier number, we run the risk of persuading this larger faction to think the united states isn't with them. that's a much greater threat than one or two lone wolf attacks of a kind that are very difficult to stop. this is a problem where in all likelihood some kind of very low level but chronic terrorist threat of occasional acts of this kind is probably something the american olympic is going to have to live with for quite some time. >> sreenivasan: it seems the trillion dollars we might have spent is now much better at
spotting cells and groups of people who are communicating and plotting and conspiring in a particular act than it is the individual that decides this is the day that i want to align myself with this ideology and do what i need to do. >> that's right. i mean, by definition, lone wolves who are inspired by but not directed by foreign terrorist organizations are extraordinarily difficult to spot in advance of what they choose to do. they don't leave large footprints. they don't engage in activities that tend to make them easy to spot and easy to take action against, and if we try and get more information on them, again, what we end up doing is being more intrusive in our surveillance in a way that affects far more people who aren't going to become terrorists than those who do. so all of these things involve a careful balance. it's very, very easy to fall off that balance, especially in the aftermath of an attack like this, in the direction of a response that makes the problem worse and not better.
>> sreenivasan: steeping biddle from the council on foreign relations. thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> sreenivasan: learn more about the deadliest mass shootings in america. read our report online at pbs.org/newshour. finally, a quick recap, orlando has begun identifying the 50 people killed in today's mass shooting. their names are being posted as next-of-kin are informed at city of orlando dot net slash victims. the f.b.i. identified the killer as omar mateen, a 2-9d-year-old american citizen and florida resident. police killed him when they stormed the nightclub three hours after the attack began. president obama condemned the attack as acts of terror and hate and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the white house. that's all for this edition of "pbs newshour weekend." i'm hari sreenivasan.
have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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